As the weather begins to turn colder, our horses feeding regiments begin to change as well. Your pastures are declining in nutritional benefits in the fall and waiting for the first frost to prepare for the winter can be risky and harmful for your horse.
Feeding your horse good quality hay in sufficient amounts is one of the best ways to keep your horses warm in the winter months. Feed digestion produces heat. Feeding your horses high fiber food, such as hay, will release the greatest amount of heat. Grains such as corn and barley are known as low fiber feed. This will produce less heat.
Providing your horse with a sufficient amount of hay is extremely important in the winter because grazing is not an option. A horse should be fed approximately 2% of their body weight per day in feed. Owners should feed around 2 pounds of good quality hay per 100 pounds of body weight for the average horse. Keep in mind that lactating mares should be fed up to 3% of their total body weight.
Good quality hay will be mostly green with a good amount of leaves and very few stems. This should be fed to young horses, pregnant mares, and lactating mares. Average quality hay will be moderately green with a moderate amount of leaves and slightly stemmy. This should be fed to mature horses. Poor quality hay will be brown with few leaves and a large amount of coarse stems. This should not be fed to horses under any circumstances. This hay can actually cause your horse to lose weight.
Stock your barn with plenty of good quality hay now before it is too late or sold out. You and your horse will be happy that you did in the coming months! For more information on hay in the winter, visit: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2013/jan-28-2013/feed-horses-properly-in-winter/